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Saturday, June 02, 2007

AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Royal Government of Cambodia to Partner in New Free AIDS Treatment Clinic in Koh Thum

Formal Ribbon-cutting and Dedication Ceremony Takes Place Saturday, June
2nd in Kandal Province. Facility is Fifth in Partnership Between Royal
Government of Cambodia, the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and
STI Control (NCHADS) and US' Largest AIDS Organization; Others Sites Are In
Kampong Thom, Kampot & Stung Streng Provinces and in Phnom Penh

KANDAL PROVINCE, Cambodia, June 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AIDS
Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the United
States, which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin
America/Caribbean, and Asia, and which early last year joined together with
the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia and Cambodia's
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STI Control (NCHADS) in a
partnership to provide life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people
living with HIV/AIDS in four provinces in Cambodia, announced the opening
of its newest free AIDS treatment clinic in this partnership: a clinic
facility in the Koh Thum District, in Kandal Province, Cambodia. The Koh
Thum ART Treatment Clinic will open with a formal ribbon-cutting and
dedication ceremony at the facility in Kandal Province this Saturday June
2nd.

"We are deeply honored to announce the opening of this newest free
antiretroviral clinic in Cambodia in Koh Thum District in Kandal Province,
one of five AIDS treatment clinics now operating in the country in our
partnership with the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia and
the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STI," said Dr. Chinkholal
Thangsing, Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Over
the next five years, AIDS Healthcare Foundation with NCHADS will expand and
increase our collaborative initiatives to provide technical support and
strengthen the antiretroviral treatment roll out and scale up of ART
delivery services in Cambodia via designated facilities in at least twelve
sites in at least twelve provinces as well as in Phnom Penh. We will also
work closely together to support the Royal Government of Cambodia's overall
HIV/AIDS ART treatment initiatives. It is our sincere hope that this
collaboration between AHF and NCHADS will improve access to HIV/AIDS care
and treatment throughout Cambodia."

At a previous clinic dedication ceremony in the partnership, in Kampot
when the Kampot ART Treatment Clinic opened with a formal dedication
ceremony attended by over 200 people in late September, Dr. Mean Chhi Vun,
Director NCHADS, and Advisor to the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of
Cambodia, said, "NCHADS is very grateful and highly appreciates AIDS
Healthcare Foundation's commitment to support ART clinics and save more
lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. We highly treasure our
relationship with AHF."

"The antiretroviral treatment clinic in Koh Thum being dedicated
Saturday in this partnership was first established in November 2005 by
NCHADS, and is located in the compound of the Koh Thum Referral Hospital,
Koh Thum Operational District in Kandal Province," said Dr. Chhim Sarath,
AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Country Program Manager for Cambodia. "The ART
clinic is operating in a new building provided by NCHADS, and since
November 2005 until now, 172 people living with HIV/AIDS have registered at
the clinic. Among them, 84 have already started on antiretroviral
treatment, and we are both honored and humbled to partner with NCHADS and
the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia to help bring ART to
many more Cambodians who may be in need of access to such lifesaving care
and treatment."

The partnerships were first formalized in March 2006 in a memorandum of
understanding (MOU) between AHF and the Cambodian Ministry of Health, and
in a letter of agreement (LOA) with AHF, the Ministry of Health, and the
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STI Control. Through these
partnerships, AHF, the Cambodian Ministry of Health and NCHADS plan to work
together on ART scale up in several Cambodian Provinces -- now including
Kandal Province -- with the goal of bringing 3,000 people living with
HIV/AIDS in Cambodia into treatment over the next five years. In
mid-January of this year, a new clinic in the partnership was also opened
and dedicated in Stung Streng Province.

One key aspect contributing to the success of AHF's work with its
partners in Cambodia includes the linkage of clinic services provided
together with other community and home-based services. In addition, the
Cambodian partnership focuses on integrating the delivery of services under
a Continuum of Care (CoC) approach, an approach that recognizes the
complexities surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in order to improve
prevention efforts and optimize use of the oftentimes limited resources
available in the successful care and treatment of those living with the
disease.

Background on Kandal Province

Kandal Province, one of 20 provinces in Cambodia, is a relatively high
prevalence area for HIV/AIDS. It is located in the southern part of
Cambodia, and its capital provincial town is Ta Khmau. The Province
completely surrounds, but does not include, the national capital, Phnom
Penh, which is its own separate municipality. In Kandal Province, Koh Thum
serves as one of the Operational Health Districts (OD). Ta Khmau, the
provincial town, is located just 11 kms from Phnom Penh, and the population
of the surrounding area is around 1,224,433. The Province consists of eight
Operational Districts, with each Operational District containing one
Referral Hospital and number of individual Health Centers. Koh Thum is in
the southern part of Kandal Province (about 70km from the provincial town,
Ta Khmau) on the border with the country of Viet Nam.

The objectives of this latest collaboration in Kandal is similar to the
partnerships' other projects in Kampong Thom, Kampot and Stung Streng
Provinces as well as in the capital of Phnom Penh, and are as enumerated as
below:
* Capacity and skill building of the doctors and healthcare providers at
the Kandal Referral Hospital in collaboration with NCHADS.

* Establishment of an ART Clinic at the Kandal Hospital and provision of
free ART to PLHAs -- including treatment of both adults and children.

The initial collaboration between AHF and these respected Cambodian
institutions first began and were celebrated in March and April 2006 with
formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the first two other free AIDS treatment
facilities (Kampong Thom Province and Phnom Penh). The Phnom Penh facility
is located at the Preah Ket Mealea Hospital, and that collaboration was
also formalized in a separate MOU between AHF and the Preah Ket Mealea
Hospital of the Royal Government of Cambodia. The goal of that facility is
to bring medical care and ART to an additional 300 Cambodians.

The first case of HIV infection in Cambodia was reported in 1991 and
was followed by a rapid rise in its transmission. Cambodia's national
HIV/AIDS prevalence rate -- around 3% in 1997 but decreasing to 1.9% in
2003 -- is still understood to be one of the highest in Southeast Asia.
According to a recent AFP/France 24 News Report (as cited on Kaiser Family
Foundation's Daily HIV/AIDS Report), "Almost 10,000 Cambodians die of
AIDS-related illnesses annually, according to government statistics. About
1.9% of Cambodia's 13.8 million people are HIV-positive."

"This growing collaboration between AHF and our esteemed Cambodian
partners includes the delivery of innovative medical and non-medical
interventions; providing technical support and training resources to
increase and strengthen the diagnostic and treatment capacity and skills of
HIV/AIDS and ART treatment services providers in Cambodia -- all of which
will now also take place in Kandal Province," said Henry E. Chang, AHF's
Chief of Global Affairs. "AHF has significant expertise and experience in
ART service delivery and skills and capacity building related to HIV/AIDS
treatment and care, and we are therefore well-positioned to complement the
Cambodian Ministry of Health in its efforts to enhance access to
prevention, treatment and care at these facilities in Cambodia."

"The Royal Government of Cambodia has undertaken significant efforts to
treat its people living with HIV/AIDS and to try to arrest and eliminate
the epidemic, and we salute them for a pragmatic and visionary approach to
fighting the disease," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare
Foundation. "This partnership brings together many respected stakeholders
with expertise and clinical, public health and management skills that are
essential for any successful HIV treatment program, and it is a privilege
for AIDS Healthcare Foundation to partner with the Ministry of Health,
Royal Government of Cambodia and NCHADS to support the scale up of HIV/AIDS
treatment in Cambodia through this initiative."
Read more!

A Wrap of Weekly News from Cambodia

Are the Khmer Rouge trials closer to becoming more than an joke with no punch line? Perhaps.

Thursday saw the beginning of a two-week meeting of the Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) … the official website is here … that is supposed to resolve all remaining disputes between Cambodian and International jurists on how the tribunal will be run.

Once the internal rules are settled, investigations can begin. Not to say that they WILL begin, but that it will then be possible. Investigators are to be sworn in on the 13th.

I, for one, will be amazed if they actually manage to accomplish anything … amazed, impressed and very happy to eat my cynicism. This being a UN gig, I so have my doubts about it being more than an exercise in keeping people employed.

And speaking of the UN …

UN special representative of the secretary-general, Yash Ghai, made a return trip to Cambodia this week, surprisingly.

Although he welcomed legal reforms in the country and expressed hope that there are more to come addressing unjust court actions and human rights violations, he criticized a recent decision of the Appeal Court to uphold convictions for the murder of a trade union leader, “despite strong exculpatory evidence and ‘fundamentally flawed’ proceedings.

“The upholding of these sentences is a grave injustice and the Special Representative reiterates his calls for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea, and for the prosecution of those responsible,” he said in a statement.

He was apparently pleased with the way the commune council elections were conducted, but voiced concern over continuing intimidation of worker’s movement leaders.

Only Deputy PM Sar Kheng would meet with him during the visit. No one else was ‘available’ to see him.

Cambodia’s Human Rights Committee Chairman has rejected Amnesty International’s Annual Report that alleges the Cambodian government doesn’t respect human rights, evicts residents from their land, won’t pass an anti-corruption law, and obstructs the process of the courts.

In a statement I can’t figure out at all, the Chairman said, “If they said we chased Cambodian people out of Phnom Penh and they love Cambodian nation, we as Cambodians love it a thousand times more than they do.”

Huh?

And the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development is announcing support for a $11.5 million project aimed at helping rural poor.

Saying this is the agencies first targeting of the poor, ethnic, rural population … really? … the “Rural Livelihoods Improvement Project” is supposed to do something … haven’t heard what yet … with 22,600 households in Kratie, Preah Vihear and Ratanakiri provinces.

Bringing is cash, the tourist trade saw a 20% jump in the first four months of this year over the same period in 2006. (2006 drew 1.7 million tourists, generating $10.5 million)

This bump in the biz is attributed in part to new routes between Cambodia, Viet Nam and Thailand, with a 70% increase in Vietnamese tourists.

Here’s a story I don’t get:

A recent survey by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) showed that a tobacco control policy will receive enormous support in Cambodia …

Hmmmm. A country that can’t manage much in the way of reform and where very close to anything goes is reported to be gung-ho about an “immediate ban” on cigarette advertising.

Please. Can’t we deal with adoption issues first?

And here’s something to keep an eye on; a group of South Korean companies is saying it will be spending somewhere around $2 billion to build a whole new city on 119 hectares on the northern edge of Phnom Penh.

Oh my.

Yes, folks, Cambodia is booming, and total bursting at the seams isn’t far off.

A side effect? Possibly evictions, as detailed by the NGO LICADHO.

Borei Keila, located opposite the Bak Tuok High School in central Phnom Penh in Veal Vong commune of 7 Makara district, covers 14.12 hectares of land and it is divided into 10 communities. It houses at least 1,776 families —including 515 families who are house renters and 86 families who reportedly have HIV/AIDS. Villagers first settled on the land, the site of a former police training facility, in 1992.

In early 2003, in the lead up to the July 2003 general election, a “land-sharing” arrangement was proposed for Borei Keila, which would allow a private company to develop part of the area for its own commercial purposes while providing alternative housing to the residents there. The idea was hailed because, rather than the villagers being evicted, they would be compensated for the loss of their land by being given apartments in new buildings to be constructed on part of the site.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way, however. Read the story for a lot of details.

And China’s big-four steel companies are preparing to start operations in Cambodia at a comcession with 200,000,000 tons estimated as iron ore reserves.

And, of course, stories about new golf courses are become a regular feature of Cambodian news.

Under the plan, the golf course will cover an area of 120ha with half each to be located in Viet Nam and Cambodia. The golf course will consist of a park, 18 hole-course, hotels, restaurants, and tax free shops.

Progress? Schmogress!

The British government is handing out radios to members of the Khmer Cham, Cambodia’s Muslim community, in an effort to give them access to Cham-language programs.

The British Embassy in Phnom Penh claimed in a statement, “The program helps to engage the Muslim community throughout Cambodia and works to promote peace, democracy, human rights, and combat terrorism.”

Bernard Krisher, formerly of “Newsweek”, is raising money to build more than 300 small schools in rural Cambodia.

A school can be built for as little as $13,000 from a private donor, which is then matched by about $20,000 by one of the two international aid organizations. Schools built on land donated by a village include three to six classrooms, desks and chairs. Fully constructed schools are given to the village.

Follow the link for more info.

A tragic story of love and death, this article about a Cambodian widow and her young American husband who died in a fall while hiking, and about her struggle to be allowed to come to America, has a familiar theme.

Here’s a nice little piece about Cambodian classical dance and a group of dancers who fled the KR and kept Apsara alive.

A history like Cambodia does give the country an edge in somethings, and no shortage of contestants for wheelchair races could be one.

They’re preparing for competition next year in Beijing under banners that read: You don’t need legs to run like the wind.”

Sandra Hanks Benoiton writes on International Adoption and adopting as an Older Parent for Adoption.com, and on everything under the sun on Paradise Preoccupied from her sun-drenched veranda on the island of Mahé in the Indian Ocean.
Read more!

Southeast Asia: More Death Sentences for Drug Offenses

Southeast Asia continues its macabre response to drug trafficking and manufacturing, with nine people being sentenced to death in Indonesia this week for manufacturing ecstasy and three more sentenced to death in Vietnam for manufacturing and trafficking in methamphetamines. Another four people were sentenced to death for heroin trafficking in Vietnam the same day. The region, along with China, is responsible for most drug offense death sentences.

In Indonesia, the Indonesian Supreme Court Tuesday pronounced death sentences on a French man, a Dutch man, two Indonesians, and five Chinese men. The Europeans were the manufacturing experts, the Indonesians ran day-to-day manufacturing, and the Chinese funded the whole venture, which produced millions of ecstasy tablets.

"The Supreme Court considers the Frenchman and Dutchman experts," said Justice Djoko Sarwoko. "If we let them be, they would be able to produce in other place, or teach others their skills. This is a threat to the next generation." [Ed: The judge's statement is Orwellian -- even if one were to agree that the defendants should be prevented from manufacturing drugs in the future, that could be accomplished by methods other than execution.]

That same day, the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City pronounced death sentences on three men and a woman for buying methamphetamine powder in neighboring Cambodia, pressing it into pills of various colors and shapes, and selling them to customers in the city. One other man was sentenced to life in prison, while 17 other codefendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 18 years.

"They produced and sold 24,000 pills weighing up to 6 kilograms in the period between 2003 and March 2005, when the ring was busted," said presiding Judge Vu Phi Long said. "This is one of the largest non-heroin drug cases so far."

Meanwhile, in the People's Court of Son La province imposed the death sentence Tuesday on three men for trafficking in less than 35 pounds of heroin. A woman in the case was sentenced to life in prison.

Under Vietnamese sentencing guidelines, possession, distributing, manufacturing, or smuggling more than 600 grams (approximately 1.25 pounds) of heroin or 2500 grams (a little more than five pounds) of synthetic drugs is punishable by death. Vietnam has now sentenced 22 drug offenders to death this year.

Vietnam and the nine other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand) have vowed to create a drug-free region by 2015.
Read more!